Information about plants & gardens for Brisbane & Qld

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Welcome to Queensland's gateway to gardening - a collection of news, information, resources and ideas of interest to gardeners, especially residents of Queensland, Australia.

Get Results Gardening 25-03-2022
      TOP PLANTS: Double Bougainvilleas 'Klong Fire', 'Thai Gold', 'Limberlost Beauty'
      GROW GROW GROW: Saving Energy Needs People Power
      IT'S A WEED: African Tulip Tree Spathodea campanulata
      THIS WEEKEND: What A Treat
Get Results Gardening 18-03-2022
      TOP PLANTS: Ornamental Aloes
      RESEARCH: Maybe Houseplants Can Help After All
      BASICS: K is for Potassium
      THE WORLD OF PLANTS: Blue Paws

Get Results Gardening is a weekly mini-magazine delivered via email. It offers high-quality gardening information for SE Qld while keeping the inexperienced and even the reluctant gardener in mind. Easy plants, timely tips, ideas, motivation. Get a 3 month free trial subscription.

Garden Events 2022

Organising a garden show, open garden or similar event in Qld in 2022? Basic text listings (which do include a website link) are free. Featured listings are also available for a modest fee. Go to the Queensland Gardening Events Diary for more information.





The Garden Scene

More news about plants and gardens in Queensland, plus other useful and interesting horticultural news from around the world. Many of these items are edited versions of news that was previously included in Get Results Gardening.

Edited Eucalyptus

In many parts of the world, Australian eucalypts are useful species that have also become troublesome weeds. An international collaboration has recently introduced sterility into a timber variety of Eucalyptus using CRISPR gene editing technology, the first time it has been successfully used for commercial forestry. This removes the weed potential of the tree, although laws against GMO crops would prevent use of this new strain from being planted in some places. Source: Research suggests eucalyptus trees can be genetically modified not to invade native ecosystems (April, 2021)

Footpath Positivity

Research in Perth has looked at the social and ecological potential of verge gardens with a focus on Australian native plants. Key findings include the inspirational role played by other verge gardens or similar landscapes in public places or online. Although not without challenges, verge gardening was generally a positive and rewarding experience for the participants surveyed and they would recommend it to others. The report, which includes photographs of many real-life verge gardens in Perth, is available from the Clean Air and Urban Landscapes Hub: The-social-and-ecological-values-of-native-gardens-along-streets-1.pdf. (March 2021)

Zoocentrism Puts Plants In Danger

A recent survey of scientific assessments has shown bias toward animal species (especially mammals), suggesting that the proportion of endemic plants at risk is significantly underestimated. This was largely attributed to "zoocentrism" (humans' greater fondness and focus on animals compared to plants). Source: Aussie love for animals leaves plants at risk (March 2021)

A Natural End

In response to community demand for natural burials, Sunshine Coast Council is considering facilitating them within existing cemeteries and they may even be available by the end of 2021. Suitable locations would comprise bushland, or land being revegetated, with adjacent space for a communal memorial. Avoidance of toxic materials is another aspect of natural burial. Sustainable, non-toxic coffins can already be used in Sunshine Coast cemeteries. Source: The future of funerals in the spotlight (March 2021)

Overgrown Ipswich

Ipswich City Council has responded to widespread concern about unmown grass by undertaking to review staff and contractor numbers and their seasonal schedules. Workers have struggled to keep up after recent rains and the Council has been "swamped" with requests for urgent mowing of footpaths and parks, including a 900-signature petition from Redbank Plains. Many residents are worried about snakes and other dangerous wildlife. Source: Council listens to residents’ concerns about overgrown parks and reserves (February 2021)

A Prescription for Street Trees

Consistent with growing evidence of the therapeutic effects of a vegetated urban environment, analysis of the population in Leipzig, Germany has shown that streets trees can improve mental health. Researchers used the number of prescriptions for antidepressant medication in different parts of the city as the gauge. They found that a high number trees within 100 metres of the home made a difference, particularly among socio-economically disadvantaged groups. These are also the ones most at risk, so planting of more street trees could help address inequalities in this aspect of health. The species or diversity of the trees did not make a difference in this study, nor did the number of trees more than 100 metres away from home. Source: Street trees close to the home may reduce the risk of depression (January 2021)

Reducing Brain Strain

In research (https://doi.org/10.1098/rsos.201100) that will be of particular interest to work-from-homers, the gait of people walking towards a projected image was analysed. Speed and step length suffered more when urban scenes were viewed compared to natural ones. In a second experiment, the researchers gave participants a simple shape discrimination challenge while being distracted by the same scenes. Reaction times were slowed by presentation with the urban imagery compared to the nature scenes. These results indicate that even dealing with the visual aspects of a city can have a negative effect on the brain's ability to perform other tasks. (January 2021)

Here Come The Brides

Image-sharing platform Pinterest reckon their internal search data is pretty good at predicting global fashion and lifestyle trends, because people start looking for inspirational pictures well before they actually undertake a project. Their 2021 trends report suggests a move towards simpler weddings, which includes increased interest in small, backyard weddings. Source: Pinterest Predicts (December 2020)

The Office Out Back

A survey of Americans has shown that many are now thinking about installing "tiny offices" in their backyards, as an alternative to working in the main house. 62% of those already working from home would consider getting one. Source: Survey Reveals America's Ideal Tiny Home and Tiny Office (December 2020)

Help Extinguish Dutchman's Pipe

Sunshine Coast Regional Council is calling on residents to look out for Dutchman’s pipe. It wants to contain the spread of this invasive vine and eventually eradicate it from the region. Council is currently working with land holders and managers to do just that, notably in the Upper Stanley, Pumicestone, Mooloolah, Maroochy and Mary River catchments. Meanwhile, if you spot the vine anywhere on the Sunshine Coast, the council is requesting that you report it. More information here: Have you seen a Dutchman’s pipe? (December 2020)

Bonsai House Set To Grow

Mt Coot-tha Botanic Gardens' Brisbane Bonsai House is slated for a major upgrade, with construction commencing 2021 and finishing in 2022. Inspired by Japanese design, wood panelling and stone walls will define a display pavilion, workshop area, contemplation platform and courtyard featuring Japanese Maples. The completed facility will have enough capacity for the collection to expand and become Australia's largest, surpassing the National Bonsai Collection in Canberra. Brisbane City Council hopes the new bonsai house will be a significant attraction for visitors. Learn more about the project at the Brisbane City Council website: New Bonsai House project - Brisbane Botanic Gardens Mt Coot-tha (November 2020)

Irrigation With Air

Engineers at The University of Texas at Austin have created a growing medium containing special gels that absorb moisture from the air at night, when it's cooler and more humid. As the gels are warmed during the day, water is released and made available to plants. Some moisture will make it back into the air, humidifying it and contributing to ongoing water harvesting. In one rooftop experiment, all radishes planted in the gel mix survived 14 days without watering after an initial establishment period. In contrast, a sandy soil (collected from a dry region) could not support any radishes for more than 2 days after irrigation was stopped. This technology could make farming feasible in places where water availability and the cost of irrigation infrastructure currently prevents it. Gel-polymers could have other water harvesting and cooling applications, too. Source: Self-Watering Soil Could Transform Farming (November 2020)

Tree Benefits Add Up

Analysis of hundreds of public schools in Washington State, USA has shown that green cover - specifically tree cover - within 250m of the school enhanced performance in reading and maths in sixth grade children. Other research examining the positive relationship between nature and learning have concentrated on younger or older students. Source: Trees set sixth-graders up for success (November, 2020)

Chainsaw Through The Tulips

Fraser Coast Regional Council has declared war on the African tulip tree (Spathodea campanulata), aiming to eliminate the species from its parks and gardens entirely. As a first step, a number were recently removed from Margaret Lin Park in Kawungan. Going forward, staff will be recording the location of other specimens on Council land so that they can be scheduled for removal, too. Council says it will plant replacements of more appropriate species. As an incentive to residents, it's also offering a replacement for every African tulip tree removed from private yards in the region. Read more and learn how how to claim your replacement trees here: Pest trees to be removed from local parks (November 2020)

Floating Gardens

On the Chicago River in Illinois, USA, an eco-park is being developed with floating gardens attached along the shoreline. Although the main purpose of the park is urban beautification, researchers found that even an installation of this scale could make small but measurable improvements to nitrate and phosphate levels. This demonstrates the potential of floating gardens to serve the community and environment above the waterline, while working to clean up city waste or agricultural runoff below it. Source: Floating Gardens: More than Just a Pretty Place (October 2020)

Greening Daycare Delivers Health Boost

Finnish researchers took the barren playgrounds of urban daycare centres and made them more like a forest floor by the transplantation of assorted shrubs, grasses and mosses plus soil. Planter boxes for planting with annuals and peat blocks for climbing and digging were also added. Measured improvements in skin and gut microbiota and immune systems indicated that child health can be boosted by playing in and with a more diverse and natural environment and this can be achieved by renovating existing playgrounds. Changes were seen in just one month. Source: City Day Care Yards with Forest Floor Boosted Children’s Immune Systems (October 2020)

Island Composting

With Redland City Council support, a community-based effort to deal with organic waste locally is to be trialled on Karragarra Island in Moreton Bay. Participating residents will take material to Karragarra Community Garden, where it will be composted and used to grow more food. A solar-powered, forced aeration composting system will be developed and tested as part of the project. It's hoped that this will efficiently and economically deal with food waste, which could otherwise cause problems in a small, community-run scheme. The University of Queensland’s Centre for Recycling of Organic Waste and Nutrients (CROWN), Running Wild Youth Conservation Culture and Southern Moreton Bay Islands Permaculture are also collaborating in this research. Source: Recycling trial targets organic waste on Karragarra Island (October 2020)

Little Gardens Can Be Uplifting

A number of small, bare front gardens in an economically deprived region in the north of England were the basis of a study. Some received an allocation of ornamental (not edible) plants of various sizes, installed in self-watering containers that were maintained by the researchers. In the months that followed, residents of those homes showed improvements in diurnal cortisol patterns and self-reported emotional responses. Although access to public green spaces and communal gardens may have their own benefits, this study indicates that urban planners should not overlook the contribution that private gardens can make to the health and well-being of a population. The intervention motivated some of the participants to improve the gardens further or start working on their back yards or house. It even inspired some of the neighbours. Full report published in Landscape and Urban Planning: “It made me feel brighter in myself”- The health and well-being impacts of a residential front garden horticultural intervention (October 2020)

Tree Troubles

A decision has been made on the fate of four Himalayan ash (Fraxinus griffithii) trees in the centre of Boonah. As non-native species with weedy qualities, they were slated for removal as part of the town's ongoing revitalisation project, but community concern put plans on hold while Scenic Rim Regional Council reviewed the issue. Subsequently, Council announced it will retain three of the trees, necessitating some adjustments to the original landscape design. It will also install a trap which will help prevent the trees' many winged seeds (and other trash) reaching the creeks, but at a cost of $100,000 plus ongoing maintenance. Sources: Council to review trees in Boonah town centre and Council makes decision on Boonah High Street trees (September 2020)

Brisbane Warms to Fire Pits

Following the winter trial and strong community response, Brisbane City Council has decided that its residents may continue to use fire pits and braziers. However, they must not present a fire or smoke hazard and must not be used when there are fire bans in place. You can get more information about what's allowed, including design, placement and fuels, at the Council website here: Brazier and fire pit heating trial. Earlier in 2020 many Brisbane residents were surprised to learn that fire pits had not actually been permitted previously. It would be worth checking the website before you light up again next winter, as the law is yet to be formally amended. Residents in other council jurisdictions should check with their own local authority. (September 2020)

A Growing Library

The Noosa Library Service, in conjunction with Permaculture Noosa and the Cooroy Community Permaculture Gardens, is planning to launch a seed library. Users will be encouraged to save seeds from their successful crops and "return" them to the library, building a good supply of seeds that will perform well under local conditions. Workshops for adults and children and instructional videos will also be part of the program. Source: Seed library to help grow community of keen gardeners (August 2020).

Sleepless in the Suburbs

Landscape lighting can affect the flowering cycle of some plants, but may disrupt the sleep of birds, too. Reserachers at La Trobe University and University of Melbourne looked at various aspects of sleep such as duration, fragmentation and REM in two bird species and found exposure to light at intensities comparable to street lighting had negative impacts. In humans, it's been shown that reducing the amount of blue-wavelengths can reduce the effects of electronic screens on sleep. Similarly, it was found that magpies did suffer more with blue-rich white light than with amber light. However, white and amber light were equally bad for the domestic pigeons tested, showing that species vary in their reaction and simply changing the light colour is probably not a general solution. Although wild birds can potentially avoid brightly-lit areas, the researchers suggest you only use outdoor lighting when and where it's really needed, eliminating purely decorative lighting and using sensor lighting for safety and security. They also recommend street and park lights be directed downwards and shielded as much as possible. Source: Artificial light keeps birds up at night (July 2020).

A Growing Demand

In the UK, the pandemic has hit home how important having a garden can be. British property portal Rightmove reports that in June, searches by prospective buyers nominating gardens as an essential feature greatly increased. A survey also showed that this is the biggest change in priorities for for buyers after going through lockdown. Especially valuable are south-facing gardens and terraces, to maximise access to natural light and warmth in these northern hemisphere properties. Source: £22,000 premium for homes with south-facing gardens (July 2020)

New Weapon in Woody Weed War

A more efficient way killing of weed trees has been developed by the University of Queenlsand in association with Gatton-based BioHerbicides Australia. A dry from of glyphosate is packaged inside a capsule which is inserted into the trunk with a specially designed applicator called the Injecta. Testing of the technology for the control of large Chinese elms growing in native vegetation along Franklin Vale Creek, near Grandchester, shows several advantages over the old methods. In the past, herbicide would typically be applied via cuts or holes in the trunks or over the stump. The capsule method uses less chemical with less risk of environmental contamination and is faster and safer for the operator. Less personal protective equipment is required and no chainsaws, axes or heavy backpack sprayers are involved. Source: Giant weeds slain by UQ innovation (July 2020)

More Proof of Plastic Uptake by Plants

Uptake of Nanoplastic particles (which are less than 100 nanometres in size) has been observed in a plant. Now there's a report of larger microplastic particles being absorbed by plants. In this case, the particles squeezed between root cells or entered through natural cracks formed where new roots emerge. They were then transported upwards with normal water movement. Food crops particularly at risk of plastic contamination would be those growing with wastewater or sewage sludges. Source: Crop Plants Are Taking Up Microplastics (July 2020)

Plastic Pollution in Plants

Pollution of aquatic environments is getting a lot of attention, but now there's evidence of a terrestrial plant absorbing nanoplastics under 200nm in size. Under laboratory conditions, Arabidopsis thaliana was shown to accumulate two types of particle with similar properties to weathered and degraded plastic found in the environment. Both types inhibited growth, which has big implications for both natural and agricultural systems. Of the two plastics tested, the one with a positively charged surface had the biggest effect on the plants, although it was mainly confined to the root tips. The negatively-charged plastic was, on the other hand, seen to move more within the plants. Source: Research in Land Plants Shows Nanoplastics Accumulating in Tissues (June 2020)

Fire Ant Regulations Updated

Fire ants haven't been in the news much lately, but the threat hasn't gone away. The Queensland Government have recently amended biosecurity regulations, which includes changing movement controls from a 3-zone to a 2-zone system. Check the updated rules at the Qld Govt Fire Ants Portal. You'll also find more information about fire ants, how they spread and how to recognise them. (June 2020)

Tree-killers strike Toogoom

In more pest news, Fraser Coast Regional Council have confirmed that the death of several mature trees along the Toogoom foreshore was caused by deliberate poisoning. This follows another poisoning case at Point Vernon four months ago. Council will trim limbs for public safety, but intend leaving as much of the dead trees' structure as possible to provide wildlife habitat. Source: Toogoom tree vandalism ‘disappointing and destructive’ (June 2020)

Made for the Shade

Noosa Botanic Garden's new shade garden has been officially opened, replacing an old shade house that was closed to the public several years ago for safety reasons. The new structure incorporates shade sails that overlap in places to produce a variety of light and shade levels, enabling a range of different shade-loving species to be cultivated beneath. The new garden has been a collaborative effort, with Noosa Council staff and garden volunteers working on the landscaping and the project being jointly funded by Council and Seqwater.It's hoped that the new shade garden will further encourage visitors to the Gardens, which is already estimated at 70,000 per year. Source: New shade garden opens at Noosa Botanic Gardens (February 2020).

Toowoomba Honours Horticultural Heritage

As part of ongoing upgrades to Queens Park, an interpretive shelter is slated to commence construction shortly. Visitors will be able to view excavated footings of the old conservatory which once stood adjacent to the site. The "hot house" was a feature of the park from 1909 until its removal in the late 1950s. The site was excavated by archaeology team from the University of Southern Queensland in 2015. You can view an ABC report on the dig and see historical photographs here: Archaeologists uncover secrets of long-lost Toowoomba conservatory. The design of the new shelter has been inspired by the shape of the former greenhouse, paying homage to a structure which would have made a significant contribution to Toowoomba's identity as a "garden city". Source: Construction to begin on Queens Park Interpretive Shelter (February 2020)

Designing the Sunshine Coast

Sunshine Coast Design is a newly-released book developed by Sunshine Coast Council in collaboration with design professionals and the broader community to encourage design that reflects the region's environmental and cultural character. Some of the design principles promoted by the book include consideration of climate, inspiration from nature, shady streets, green corridors, incorporation of landscape and enhancement of views. A hard copy version will be available for purchase but an online version can be viewed for free: Sunshine Coast Design Book. (February 2020)

A Matter of Matter

When soil organic matter is too high, there can be an excess of nutrients and microbial activity that damages plants. Samples from urban gardens near Oregon State University, averaged 13% organic matter, while 3-5% is recommended. One garden visited had 30% organic matter and dying plants. High figures were associated with raised beds, which are typically filled with materials other than the sites' natural soils. The researcher recommends balancing high-carbon materials with nutrient-rich manures and composts, and blending with good soil. Source: Study shows some urban gardens contain too much organic matter (January, 2020)

Tips for Drips

The "drip tip" has long been recognised as an adaptation by rainforest leaves to efficiently shed water, but a recent study shows how the precise structure of the leaf tip achieve this. The tapered shape reduces capillary resistance and the orientation and curvature of the apex works with gravity to enhance droplet shedding. This results in a higher frequency of drips, each of a lower volume. The drip tiles of Asian palaces and the gargoyles of European cathedrals employed similar principles, helping to move water quickly off the structures and reducing the risk of leakage, rot and corrosion in an age before drainage pipes. Full report: Apex structures enhance water drainage on leaves (January 2020)

Playtime in Toowoomba

Stage 5 of Toowoomba's Queens Park Master Plan has been completed. The latest developments include upgraded landscaping and playgrounds along Margaret Street, plus improved pathways and lighting. Besides enhancing the park for residents and visitors, Toowoomba Regional Council says that over 70 jobs were either created or supported in the process. There are two more stages to be done before the Master Plan is complete. Source: $1.3 million Queens Park upgrade officially opened. (January 2020)

Mixed Messages From Alluring Orchid

Females of most mosquito species need to consume animal blood to produce eggs. What's less well known is that adults of both sexes feed on plant sugars, including floral nectar. Some plants in turn use the mosquitoes as pollinators. One of these is a Northern Hemisphere orchid called Platanthera obtusata, which advertises its nectar by emitting an alluring scent. Scientists investigating this relationship have found that it's a mixture of different odour compounds in exactly the right proportions that does the trick, even though some of the individual ingredients have a repulsive effect in isolation. They also found that one of the repellent chemicals lights up the same parts of the mosquito brain as DEET. Perhaps an orchid-inspired compound could provide an effective (and better-smelling) alternative for personal insect protection in the future. Source: Mosquitoes are drawn to flowers as much as people - and now scientists know why. (January 2020)


Some older news items of continuing interest have been moved to appropriate subject pages. Check the Guide to Pages or use the search function at the top of the page. Older news about the benefits to physical or mental health and society will be collected in a new page: Effect of gardens & gardening on human health. Items related to property value are at Landscaping & property values



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